It’s tempting to call this thing the “Debacle in the Desert.”
But since the visiting St. Louis Rams limped into their game against the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday at University of Phoenix Stadium with a 5-7 record, it’s really not worth bestowing it a nickname.
Let’s simply call the Rams’ 30-10 loss to the Cardinals what it was.
It was another one of those Sundays we’ve grown accustomed to where a lot of things went right for Insert Opponent Name here and a lot of things went wrong for the Rams.
The Cardinals scored early and often with the St. Louis secondary making Carson Palmer and Larry Fitzgerald look like Joe Montana and Jerry Rice, and the run defense unable to keep Rashard Mendenhall and Andre Ellington out of the end zone.
At 5-8, with three games remaining, St. Louis cannot finish the season with a winning record. So this disappointing campaign marks the 10th consecutive season St. Louis will finish at .500 or below.
Since going 12-4 in 2003, the Rams are 49-106-1.
It is also likely the ninth straight season that the Rams will miss the playoffs.
That includes the end of the Mike Martz era — which doesn’t seem quite so bad all these years later, right? — as well as the Joe Vitt, Scott Linehan, Jim Haslett and Steve Spagnuolo eras, and now Jeff Fisher’s.
The Rams have lost two straight games, against the Cardinals and 49ers, which followed impressive wins against the Colts and Bears.
So two steps forward and two steps back?
That’s how it feels this fall with this St. Louis squad, which has a pair of two-game win streaks, two three-game loss streaks and another two-game loss streak they will try to snap next Sunday against the Saints at the Edward Jones Dome.
The Rams were 3-3 and headed toward their fourth loss when Sam Bradford suffered his season-ending knee injury in the fourth quarter of the Week 7 game at Carolina.
Sunday’s loss in Arizona dropped the Rams to 2-4 since Kellen Clemens began starting at quarterback.
Clemens has done some good things as the starter, but he’s also proven he’s the quarterback his previous NFL experience has told us he is.
In the back-to-back road losses, the Rams weren’t able to establish a consistent rushing attack — rookie Zac Stacy had 97 yards on 33 carries, or 2.93 yards per carry, against the 49ers and Cardinals — and Clemens wasn’t able to do the heavy lifting and carry the club.
Last week, in San Francisco, he completed just 19 of 37 passes for 218 yards, with one touchdown and one interception, and a passer rating of 67.2. On Sunday, in Arizona, when 56 of the Rams’ 100 yards rushing came on one Tavon Austin end-around, Clemens was 16 of 27 for 181 yards, with two interceptions and a passer rating of 48.5.
In seven games, Clemens has completed 52.9 percent of his passes for 1,200 yards — he’s averaging 196.8 yards per game in his six starts — with five touchdowns, five interceptions and a passer rating of 72.8.
On Sunday, the Rams scored 10 points on a 44-yard field goal by Greg Zuerlein in the first quarter and a 1-yard touchdown run by Stacy in the fourth. But the St. Louis offense gave up nine points, on a third-quarter interception that Karlos Dansby turned into a touchdown and then, a few minutes later, a sack by John Abraham for a safety.
There’s so little room for error with this team right now. It’s not a coincidence that the Rams turned the ball over just once in their two wins against the Colts and Bears and have turned it over three times the past two weeks.
The Rams’ 11 penalties at San Francisco and again at Arizona didn’t help the cause, either.
The best thing St. Louis has going for it right now, sadly, is the tire fire that is the Washington Redskins.
The Redskins lost again Sunday, this time 45-10 to the visiting Kansas City Chiefs. Washington has now lost five straight games and is 3-10 with games remaining against the Falcons, Cowboys and Giants. The Redskins’ first-round pick in the 2014 draft belongs to the Rams, of course, so every time the Redskins lose, the Rams win.
St. Louis fans don’t have to look very far for an example of how quickly fortunes can change in the NFL.
The Chiefs are a prime example with their remarkable resurgence from 2-14 a year ago to 10-3 this season.
It’s the kind of turnaround tale that should give Rams fans hope for a better tomorrow. Because, really, the 2014 season can’t get here soon enough.
You can follow Nate Latsch on Twitter (@natelatsch) or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.